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Health care or healthcare is the prevention, treatment, and management of illness and the preservation of mental and physical well-being through the services offered by the medical, nursing, and allied health professions [1]. The organised provision of such services may constitute a health care system. Before the term "healthcare" became popular, English-speakers referred to medicine or to the health sector and spoke of the treatment and prevention of illness and disease.

Healthcare as an industry

The healthcare industry is one of the world's largest and fastest-growing industries. Consuming over 10 percent of gross domestic product of most developed nations, health care can form an enormous part of a country's economy. In 2003, health care costs paid to hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, diagnostic laboratories, pharmacies, medical device manufacturers and other components of the health care system, consumed 15.3 percent [2] of the GDP of the United States, the largest of any country in the world. In 2001, for the OECD countries the average was 8.4 percent [3] with the United States (13.9%), Switzerland (10.9%), and Germany (10.7%) being the top three.

The healthcare industry includes the delivery of health services by doctors and other allied health providers. Usually such services receive payment from the patient or from the patient's insurance company; although they may be government-financed (such as the National Health Service in the United Kingdom) or delivered by charities or volunteers, particularly in poorer countries.

Medical and social models of healthcare

A traditional view is that improvements in health result from advancements in medical science. The medical model of health focuses on the eradication of illness through diagnosis and effective treatment. In contrast, the social model of health places emphasis on changes that can be made in society and in people's own lifestyles to make the population healthier. It defines illness from the point of view of the individual's functioning within their society rather than by monitoring for changes in biological or physiological signs.

The term underserved is used to refer to populations which are disadvantaged with regard to health care due to their ability to pay for care, ability to access care, ability to access comprehensive health care or that suffer health disparity for reasons of race, religion, language group or social status.

See also Medical model of disability, Social model of disability, Preventive medicine.

See also

External links



  • Bond J. & Bond S. (1994). Sociology and Healthcare, Churchill Livingstone. ISBN 0-443-04059-1.

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